1 Dec 1888: a fund raising concert in Rogerstone

The steel works at Rogerstone, known as Castle Works, was built for Nettlefolds in 1887. Attracted by easy access to coal and iron ore and looking to make good use of local rail links and the docks at Newport, the Nettlefold family had elected to move part of their extensive business empire to South Wales from the Midlands. Producing steel, wire, screws and nails it was a large operation employing several thousand men many of whom had previously worked for the company at its factory at Hadley in Shropshire.

Sport was one way of keeping the workforce occupied in their free time. Within a year of beginning production a Castle Works Cricket Team was playing local teams, including Pontymister. It is perhaps surprising that such a large company staged a concert (see images below) to raise funds for its cricket team. More likely, the event was an exercise in public relations for there had already been reports of skirmishes between the Salopians and locals. 

The concert itself was a grand affair that drew together some of the most popular local artists. Tom Williams and Moses Evans were well known local choirmasters and performers in their own right, while Dan Llewellyn was an accomplished pianist and tenor. The school mistress, Edith Hawkes and her younger sister, Gertrude, both played and sang for the audience. Pride of place, however, went to John Thomas from Blaenavon known as Eos Brycheiniog, the Breconshire Nightingale.

It was perhaps with some trepidation that the works manager, John Sutton Nettlefold, stood up at one point to recite the “Dover Express”.  Just 22 years of age and named after his grandfather, the founder of the company, “the young Master” he had come down from Birmingham to manage the new enterprise. No doubt he was well received by an appreciative audience. We would like to express our thanks to Derek Picken from Rogerstone cricket club for providing a copy of the concert programme.

We do not hold details of how much the concert raised or the fortunes of the Castle Works team in the following seasons. So if you can help us fill the gaps please get in touch and we will be delighted to add your information to our records.  

Tony Peters

Museum Volunteer

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